When I was doing Shakespeare in school (Julius Caesar to be precise), our teacher had pointed out that Shakespeare painted his characters in shades of either black or white. Yet Brutus stood out as he was neither black nor white-a person so manipulated that he came to believe in the wrong cause. Here was a noble man walking down the evil path who ultimately commits suicide (figuratively its suicide only).
So we have Gopal the protagonist of Chetan Bhagat’s latest novel playing the role of Brutus. An average guy who like countless others has twice failed to get through entrance exams. He is surrounded by numerous manipulative, venal men who take him to great heights yet ultimately drive him further away from the love of his life Aarti. Then there is the noble & upright, not-for-sale crusader of the revolution-Raghav. His character is as noble & honest as they can get. He is a topper-material engineering graduate who kicks a job to become a journalist & even starts his own newspaper-cum-pamphlet-the Revolution 2020. As this story is set against a political backdrop, we have the power & money hungry MLA Sukla acting as the true villain & Cassius of this story.
The story begins with CB’s trademark epilogue introducing the present day Gopal-Director of the renowned GangaTech college of engineering in Varansi. The subsequent conversation reveals a young, rich, powerful Gopal who is lonely within, as empty as the mansion he lives in. As is often the case, Gopal tells his life’s story right from where it all began-when he was in school. The love story is rather clichéd yet you can’t help feeling sad for him. Aarti’s confusion is well-depicted. At some point one may feel that Aarti is to blame for all this yet well, but that’s how girls’ minds work! Raghav appears in the third person, often only mentioned by Aarti. We can see he is the typical hard-working journo minus the khaki kurta & with an engineering degree.
CB has blended all 3 problems of India into this story-there’s the faulty education system, bribery & corruption. The initial half focuses on the first two evils-the infamous JEE/AIEEE obsession of the Indian masses & their poverty. Every non-IITian would have a sense of déjà-vu reading these pages. And everyone who has ever built a house or started a company would relate to the next pages showcasing the bribery hierarchy of our country.
Personally I miss the old CB. The witty one-liners, laugh-aloud kind of story. If you are looking for some serious kind of reading, the one that would almost depress you, go ahead & read it. I’d have liked it more if it had been balanced well, like The 3 Mistakes of my life may be. Even the climax of the story is Bollywood style.
I’d give it a 3/5.